Mike Huckabee’s win in Iowa may be a fluke attributable largely to the fact that 60 percent of Republicans who voted in the caucuses described themselves as evangelical Christians.
That means they are big boosters of a candidate who is a former southern Baptist minister and suspicious of Mit Romney’s Mormon religion. Many evangelicals consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be a non-Christian cult.
In entrance polls in the Iowa Republican caucuses, almost half of those who said they were evangelicals said they were voting for Huckabee. Eight in 10 of Huckabee’s supporters said they are born again or evangelical Christians, compared to fewer than half of Romney’s backers.
Thus, in Iowa, Romney — who won 25 percent of the vote vs. Huckabee’s 34 percent — ran into a perfect storm arrayed against his candidacy.
The national story may be quite different. In contrast to Iowa, voters in this Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire are not so interested in a candidate’s religion but rather more interested in a candidate’s record, particularly when it comes to taxes.
That is an area where Romney outshines Huckabee. As Massachusetts governor, Romney turned a $3 billion deficit into a surplus without raising taxes. In contrast, by the end of his 10-year tenure, Huckabee was responsible for a 37 percent hike in the sales tax in Arkansas. Spending increased by 65 percent — three times the rate of inflation.
New Hampshire voters are also more likely to give weight to Huckabee’s record when it comes to pardons. On that issue, Huckabee looks even more liberal than former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who lost to George H.W. Bush in part because of a furlough program that allowed convicted murderer Willie Horton out of prison on a weekend pass, when he raped a woman.
As Arkansas governor, Huckabee commuted or pardoned 1,033 criminals, including 12 murderers. In contrast, Romney as governor granted no pardons or commutations while he was governor.
Clearly, Iowa voters gave little thought to whether Huckabee could win the White House. In a poll conducted for The Associated Press of voters entering Iowa’s caucuses, Huckabee voters indicated that values outranked electability in importance for them. Six in10 of his backers said the most important quality in picking a candidate was someone who shared their values, while a third of his supporters said he says what he believes. Nearly two-thirds of Huckabee voters also said it was very important that their candidate share their religious beliefs. One in five of Romney’s voters felt that way.
Fewer than one in 20 of Huckabee voters said they thought he had the best chance of winning in November. John McCain and Romney each won a little more than a third of voters who said the top priority was that a candidate “has the right experience.” Only 7 percent said the most important attribute was a candidate’s electability. Half of those backed Romney.
Huckabee also benefited by portraying Romney as a flip-flopper who is not pro-life. The fact is that while most of the candidates have changed position on some issues, Romney has made a clear change on only one issue. While he has always been personally pro-life, like Ronald Reagan, he is a convert to the pro-life position when it comes to public policy. But as governor, Romney took pro-life stands, vetoing bills that authorized embryo farming, therapeutic cloning, and access to emergency contraception without parental consent.
That track record is far more important than his endorsement of Roe v. Wade more than a decade ago during a debate with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. But in interviews and in the ad that Huckabee released to the press but did not run, Huckabee claimed that Romney signed a bill that gives a $50 co-pay for an elective abortion in his state’s health care plan. In fact, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has twice ruled that any health insurance plan that uses states funds cannot deny medical benefits for abortions.
Thus, neither Romney nor the state legislature had any say in whether abortions would be covered.
Finally, Huckabee benefited from the unprecedented number of televised debates. His folksy style and sense of humor won over many voters. But when Huckabee is under fire from good questioners, he becomes defensive and irritable. As he comes under more press scrutiny, Huckabee’s image may start to show some cracks.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free by e-mail. Go here now.
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